If you’ll excuse the pun, I’m back on my game for the first time in about six months!
This is my first attempt at cooking game since I did veal, which went very well initially (the recipe for Venison in a Wild Mushroom Sauce is here), but following some texturally unpleasant venison meatballs, I went off this for a while- still, an experiment isn’t an experiment if you’re certain of the outcome!
A mixture of boredom and an extended lunch break took me to Birmingham’s historic rag market, under the shadow of the Bullring, where there are about 20 butcher’s and fishmonger’s under one roof. Honestly, if you’re from round this way, it’s a treasure trove, and there are massive bargains to be had!
Anyway, I left with four quail, and only the barest idea of what to do with them- the inspiration for how to cook them comes in part from Sophie Grigson, daughter (and fine cookery writer in her own right!) of my own cookery hero, Jane Grigson, whose book, English Food is probably the nearest thing I own to a religious text.
Anyway, feeling adventurous but time limited? Here’s a recipe for you. It would also work equally well for a barbecue, as summer is coming, and people will likely remember the delicious quail over the tasty but obvious prepackaged lamb and mint kebabs!
- 4 Quail
- Garlic oil
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1tbsp herbes de provence
- Salt and pepper
- A good bundle of asparagus (about 20 heads)
- Olive oil
- Dressed fresh crisp salad and roasted new potatoes, to serve
Start with the new potatoes and asparagus- parboil the new potatoes, halve them, chuck them in a roasting tin with a little oil and salt (and rosemary, if you have some fresh and to hand) in an oven at around 200c for about half an hour.
Cut the woody ends off the asparagus, and brush with some olive oil. then divide into bundles of five or so, and wrap the pancetta around these. These will want to join the potatoes for about 15-20 minutes- not so long that the bacon dries out, and you’ll want the asparagus to retain just a little of it’s crunch.
While the oven goes, you’ll want to spatchcock the quail. With a sharp knife, cut along the breastbone. I’ll be coarse here, to get started, shove the knife firmly up the quail’s… cavity, and lever the knife up- once it’s started, the remainder of the cutting is pretty easy with a sharp knife. With a pair of scissors, trim out any giblets and remaining sweetbreads from inside- they are too small to do anything worthwhile with sadly.
A quick aside. I just got to use the word spatchcock and giblet in the same paragraph- this blog is a linguistic joy for me!!!
Once you’re done, start heating a grill pan over a medium high heat. While this heats up, mix the oil, lime juice, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl, then apply liberally to the birds using your hands, and getting it in every available nook and cranny.
Lay the bird, skin side down and as flat as you can in the pan, and leave to cook for about 5 minutes, then turn over, and cook on the bone side for another 7 minutes. You’ll probably need to wrap the first two birds in some foil while the second batch cook, unless you’re blessed with a huge grill at home- if so, I am envious.
When they’re done, lay them on a bed of salad (a good quick dressing- 1 tsp English mustard powder, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste), and serve with the asparagus and potatoes. If I were to do this dish again, I might butcher the quail into the breasts, legs and wings and arrange these nicely, to save work at the table.
A lovely summery way of eating an underappreciated bird.